U.K.-based researcher claims responsibility for Apple Developer Center problems

Claiming that he was only attempting to hunt for bugs - security researcher Ibrahim Baliç has said that he was likely the source of a security breach, which forced Apple to take down their Developer Center portal last week.

Last Thursday, Apple's Developer Center, a dedicated resource for third-party software developers working with iOS and OS X, went down. The outage was noticed immediately, and for three days speculation ruled the blogs and various online haunts used by Apple developers. In many cases, the assumption was that the outage and the silence from Apple themselves on the cause and recovery, could only mean that bad things were yet to come.

On Sunday, Apple addressed the outage in a statement posted to the Developer's website, confirming some of the speculation that the outage was in fact due to a security incident. According to the statement, the day the outage started, an "intruder attempted to secure personal information of our registered developers."

"Sensitive personal information was encrypted and cannot be accessed, however, we have not been able to rule out the possibility that some developers names, mailing addresses, and/or email addresses may have been accessed. In the spirit of transparency, we want to inform you of the issue. We took the site down immediately on Thursday and have been working around the clock since then," the statement from Apple said.

The outage is still ongoing as of Monday afternoon, as access to the Developer Center remains blocked. The reason, Apple noted in their statement, is due to the recovery process that includes "completely overhauling our developer systems, updating our server software, and rebuilding our entire database."

Hours after the statement was posted online, and delivered via email to registered users - some of whom reported that they were seeing password reset requests and notifications - a Turkish security researcher, based in the U.K., claimed on Twitter and within comments left on Tech Crunch, that he likely caused the outage while performing vulnerability testing on Apple's portal.

The researcher, Baliç, said that he recently started focusing his pen testing efforts on Apple. Previously, he alleges, his work included searching for and reporting bugs to Facebook. In all, he claims to have discovered 13 bugs on various Apple domains, and has reported each of them using their bug reporting system.

"One of those bugs have provided me access to users details etc. I immediately reported this to Apple. I have taken 73 users details (all apple inc workers only) and prove them as an example. 4 hours later from my final report Apple developer portal gas closed down and you know it still is... [sic]," his comment says.

"... today I'm reading news saying that they have been attacked and hacked. In some of the media news I watch/read that whether legal authorities were involved in its investigation of the hack. I'm not feeling very happy with what I read and a bit irritated, as I did not done this research to harm or damage. I didn't attempt to publish or have not shared this situation with anybody else. [sic]"

It's unknown if Baliç's claims are legitimate. Based on details provided in a video by him (which is now set to private on YouTube), it would appear that he discovered a bug of some kind. But Apple has yet to confirm this information.

"While this breach may have come from an individual that does not intend to exploit the information, it reveals that the site was indeed vulnerable and the possibility that others may have access to the same data remains," Michael Sutton, the VP of Security Research for Zscaler said in a statement to CSO.

"Access to Apple developer accounts would be a powerful tool for an attacker as that would allow for uploading potentially malicious applications on behalf of the compromised developer, although the apps would still need to get through the standard vetting process."

In addition, Sutton added, the developer IDs and, names, and email addresses could be used in social engineering attacks, assuming others accessed the vulnerabilities before Baliç discovered them. Moreover, this incident happened just as developers are preparing applications for iOS 7, slated for release this fall.

Baliç seems to be making the attempt to distance himself from potential legal troubles with his statements that he intended no harm. However, in the video, he clearly shows personal information belonging to non-Apple employees, such as full names and in some cases corporate email addresses. Such a disclosure may come back to haunt him.

"As Ibrahim has not publicly disclosed the vulnerabilities that he discovered, Apple my not pursue any legal action (no harm no foul). If Ibrahim does publicly disclose them we may be looking at a different ballgame," explained Peter Arzamendi, a Senior Security Consultant for Rapid7.

"The issues with disclosing a vulnerability, and the ramifications of doing so, is a struggle security researchers deal with on a day-to-day basis. As laws become more restrictive, we may see less beneficial security research being conducted; this will hinder the development of secure products and leave the user community vulnerable to attack. Effectively you're impeding responsible researches from helping people to understand how they are at risk, and enabling attackers to continue to take advantage of bugs in secrecy."

Read more about data protection in CSOonline's Data Protection section.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags AppleIbrahim Bali�applicationsApple securitysoftwareApple Developer Centerdata protection

More about AppleApple.CSOFacebookRapid7zScaler

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Steve Ragan

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place